It is a wonderful feeling to see something that once was just an idea, sprouted from a conversation, to then manifest in the physical world. After long periods of designing and sourcing materials in the beginning of this year, we finally started to build the prototype of the drawing surface.

Firstly, I will go over the idea and the design of this surface before outlining what we did on the first day of the build.

The Mutable Drawing Surface coming into being

I might have mentioned in previous post that we have settled on the idea to create a mutable surface on which the artist draws. Being mutable means that the surface will move and therefore altering what is drawn, and so causing the artist to respond to the changes made. How the surface moves (such as speed of it’s movement or whether it will move at all) is dependent on data from the artist, such as the artist’s body and wrist movements and position to the surface.  Similar to the nature of collaborations, where we interact with our collaborators, developing, changing and shaping the idea as we progress, the surface changes the drawing made by responding to the artist and the artist responding to these “disruptions” or “contributions” as s/he develops the work.

The interaction part of the idea is still under development and we will focus on it in the next phase of the project. We agree that the main thing for us to get right first is to work out how the surface can change what is drawn. Once we’ve got that figured out and working, we could focus on developing and programming the interactive aspects between the artist and the surface with the use of sensors.

The Design

Mike came up with the idea of having concentric rings with a circle in the centre to form a flat surface and having them rotate in different directions and speed will change what is drawn on the surface. The challenge was to work out how to hold the rings and circle together, and Mike eventually designed structure underneath to allow the rings and circle to partially sit on.

Despite our initial idea of having a drawing surface that resembled the rectangular shape of a canvas, we decided for it to be circular. This is so that the whole surface can move and, in addition, we both prefer it aesthetically. Circle, to me, is a very strong symbol and makes me think of the infinite and in relation to this project I think of that ongoing interaction/dance between the artist and technology.

The overall design is a cylinder with five concentric rings making up one side of the cylinder, each rotated by a motor that sits inside. The whole external surface will be coated with blackboard paint, allowing us to draw on it multiple times.

The rings and cogwheels in Mike’s design of the surface reminded me of clock mechanics.

The Build

Being someone who hardly does any DIY and mainly works on flat surfaces and glowing screens, this was new territory for me and so I was very excited to begin this stage. The day was mainly assembling the drawing surface and connecting the motors to the rings. We started off by sawing screw threads into the right size for the design and then going through a very long task of assembling bolts, nuts, bearings and washers, slotting threaded inserts into the gears and placing these elements into the components forming the drawing surface. The process felt a lot like another level of assembling things from Ikea, we joked and called it Mike-ea.

Day one ended with most of the parts assembled. The remaining tasks of the build still left to do are painting the surface with blackboard paint, further fixing components in place, connecting and programming the electronics and fixing issues that arose on the first day of the build. The measurements provided from the website we bought the motors from were incorrect and the motors turned out taller than we anticipated so we will have to recut some parts. We also noticed certain changes we could make in the design to make it run smoother too. We scheduled to continue in a week’s time.

All in all, it was a very satisfying day of sawing, assembling, fixing things in place and seeing this design coming into being. Moving the rings manually and feeling how sturdy the construction is made me very excited to see them being driven by the motors and I cannot wait to draw on the surface.